BIO: Although Elspeth's interest in African roots music probably began in childhood with her obsession for Scott Joplin's rags, she had been singing classical music for many years when she had her first significant encounter with Cuban music. The rhythmic counterpoint and call-and-response between the akpwon (lead singer) and ankori (chorus) were exciting and powerful, and in the ensueing weeks Elspeth put her classical training aside in order to focus on congas, Cuban dance, folkloric Cuban song, and Spanish language. "Concentrating most of my early efforts on drumming was a good decision," Elspeth explains. "Nothing could have better informed my singing in this style. Like Rebeca Mauleon says regarding Cuban musicians, 'we are all drummers'".
Elspeth has been singing for and directing Orchestra Zarabanda (formerly Yerbabuena), a 10-piece Cuban salsa band, for the better part of a decade. O.Z. has been her primary training ground, providing hundreds of performances and two major recording projects, although she has sung for a variety of ensembles along the way. Not surprisingly, Elspeth's new release, "Gallo que canta" features many members of O.Z. as well as special guests Jovino Santos Neto, Marco de Carvalho and Anthony Blea, with whom Elspeth is honored to have had the opportunity to record.
In the last couple of years Elspeth has become more and more facinated by the manifestation of African polyrhythm all over Latin America, and the fusion of the rich and lovely South American vocal traditions with jazz. The first hint of this new direction begins to become apparent on Elspeth's latest release, and is an indicator of what is to come.
Despite the hurdles of learning a second language as an adult, and shifting from classical music to traditions where rhythm and improvisation are paramount, Elspeth has rarely felt out of place. To the contrary, it has been a great gift in her life. "When you are singing, dancing and playing the clave rhythm and it's all locking together, it's what I imagine advanced yogis must experience - pure joy."